The moment it was known which teams could not refuse to appear on HBO’s Hard Knocks next season, and the Raiders were one of those teams, their selection seemed to make almost too much sense.
The team already had former longtime TV personality Jon Gruden as head coach and would soon name longtime TV analyst Mike Mayock as General Manager.
Oddsmakers at that time had the Raiders as easily the favorite to be featured on Hard Knocks this season. That was still the case a month ago, with the Raiders at even odds. After that it was the Lions (+175), Washington (+300), Giants (+600), and 49ers (+600) — the only other teams who can’t refuse.
None of the coaches of these teams seems to want the show covering them. A month ago, Lions head coach Matt Patricia lobbied for the Raiders to be selected saying “I think the Oakland Raiders and everything they’ve got going on right now would be fantastic viewing for everybody to watch.”
Well, he’s not wrong.
The team had over $70 million in cap money to spend in free agency — an amount that would actually be closer to $95 million after cuts — and four picks in the top 35 in April’s draft. No other team will have as many top prospects enter the building this offseason trying to make an instant impact and carve out NFL careers. That stuff always makes for good television.
Those draft picks are still upcoming and they have spent a good portion of that money as well. Most notably they traded for the big personality of Antonio Brown and signed notorious ‘dirty player’ Vontaze Burfict.
This would be the second time Burfict has appeared on the show. The Bengals were selected in 2013 which was his best season and his only Pro Bowl season. So, maybe having cameras around all the time is a good thing for him.
Brown and Burfict have their own history on the field as former rivals with the Steelers and Bengals respectively, but have seemingly put that to bed. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t individually fascinating personalities HBO would surely enjoy documenting.
Then, of course, there’s the storyline of this being the farewell season in Oakland before the team heads to Las Vegas — an unprecedented situation considering teams never stay in their former city for additional seasons after announcing they are leaving. And, of course, Mark Davis would offer another interesting personality in this as well.
That move to Vegas is the only situation where I could see HBO selecting another team this season, hoping that the Raiders won’t make the playoffs and they can document the team in their first season in Sin City. That’s what they did with the Rams when they returned to Los Angeles for the 2016 season.
The selection and announcement of which team HBO will choose for this year’s Hard Knocks could happen soon. Announcements typically occur between late March and late May.